Laurel and Hardy biopic ‘love story of two friends at end of their careers'

Director Jon S. Baird said the story of the comedy duo's farewell tour gives an insight into their real life struggles.

An upcoming film about the farewell tour of comedy legends Laurel and Hardy has been described as a love story between two best friends, at the end of their careers.

Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the movie stars, Stan & Ollie tells the story of what happened on their farewell tour.

With their golden era behind them, they embark on a variety hall tour of the UK and Ireland in an effort to reconnect with their audience.

Despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, their love of performing, as well as for each other, endures as they secure their place in the hearts of their fans.

Laurel and Hardy characters on stage
The pair’s sketches are referenced throughout the film (Entertainment One)

Director Jon S. Baird, 46, from Aberdeenshire, has been a fan of the comedy duo since he was eight.

He wanted to tell the story of their twilight tour to show how these two very different men became even closer, as they realise their best years are behind them.

Baird, who has worked with Danny Boyle, Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, said: “In a nutshell, it’s a love story between these two old friends who just happen to be Laurel and Hardy – two of the most iconic comedians the world has ever seen.

“They were friendly, but they weren’t the best of friends until they were forced to go on tour at the end of their careers.

“Stan was a workaholic. He just wanted to write the script, create the films and work on everything.

“Ollie would finish filming and play golf or go down to the horse racing and bet.

“It wasn’t until they were both at the ends of their careers where they realised that they were very close friends and they loved each other.

“It’s about people realising what’s important in life. It’s not the stardom or the money.”

Laurel and Hardy
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were at their peak between the 1920s and the 1940s with their slapstick routines (PA)

Laurel and Hardy were at their peak between the 1920s and 1940s with their slapstick routines.

They were Stan Laurel, from Cumbria, and American Oliver Hardy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy.

Having lost their popularity to a “new type of comedy” they set out to reconnect with their adoring fans by touring variety halls in the UK and Ireland in 1953.

Stan & Ollie, released in cinemas on Friday, references the comedy duo’s sketches throughout.

But it also reveals on screen for the first time the story of how they were facing financial struggles and a loss of audience enthusiasm.

Jon Baird said he hoped the combination of a tale of friendship and a fresh look at the pair’s issues would provide something for those who know their work and those who do not.

He added: “By the time their last tour came around, hardly anyone came to see them – they were yesterday’s men.

“There was a new type of comedy that had replaced them. The film is about them trying to win back a big audience. They did struggle.

“It’s a story I didn’t know about and I have been a Laurel and Hardy fan for a long time.

“It’s going to certainly tell a tale that people had no idea about. They were penniless, with ill health and doing this at the end of their careers.”

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